By Maggie Lee

Lively lion dances are part of the Chinese New Year celebration.

The Year of the Rabbit bounds into Atlanta on Feb. 5 and 6, when the Chinese Cultural Center puts on a Lunar New Year celebration that offers a food court, art and craft market, concert and party that will spill into the parking lot for dance and music that’s too lively and loud to fit in a building.

“The food makes me most homesick,” admitted Anna Kao, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Atlanta, and Taiwan’s number one official representative in the Southeast. The New Peachtree Road Cultural Center is affiliated with her office.

Given that she’s from an island that takes its food seriously – witness the annual battle for title of best beef noodles in Taipei or the tea experts who say their drink is more complex than wine – the treats will be plentiful.

They’ll be served up from stalls around the center, in the style of the country’s legendary fried, skewered, spiced, sweet or savory street eats.

The Chamblee festival runs Feb. 5 and 6, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day at the Chinese Cultural Center, 5377 New Peachtree Road.

Tickets cost $5 and include a $3 voucher for the food and craft booths. Lion dances are scheduled at noon.

Kao said there are two sides to Chinese New Year, the traditional and the modern.

“People are very pious to the gods, very hardworking and have a deep sense of family values and use this event to celebrate. This is traditional side,” she explained.

On the other hand, many modern Taiwanese use their long official vacation for trips abroad, often bringing together grandparents, in-laws and little children and making it a moving family reunion.

The music at the Atlanta festival will range from the elegant guzheng, a refined stringed instrument to its sonic opposite: giant, body-shaking drums, beaten in time around the lion dance and the dragon dance.

Lions, noisy drums and firecrackers and the omnipresent red decorations and clothes recall ancient stories about the beast Nian and the things it takes to scare him away from the village.

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Chinese New Year celebration

The Chinese New Year festival will be held at the Chinese Cultural Center, 5377 New Peachtree Road, Chamblee, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 5-6. Tickets cost $5.